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2014: Year of the OpenStack Ecosystem

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Jeanne Le Garrec, Sales & Channel Manager at Hedera Technology says 2014 will be the year that OpenStack finally meets the requirements of the Enterprise.

After 8 releases, OpenStack is a buzzy subject in the cloud community. Initiated by Rackspace and the NASA in 2010 it is, today, backed by the biggest IT companies such as IBM, HP, AT&T and VMware.  Companies like Deutsche Bank or Paypal have built production clouds based on OpenStack, giving the community its first business cases & references.  OpenStack is growing fast.  The last gathering in Hong Kong saw more than 3000 attendees and 2/3 were first timers.

All these figures may seem impressive and promising for the project, and they are, but one fact makes the situation somewhat more gloomy:  the number of production deployment doesn’t reach the cloud community’s expectations.

As a Cloud Management Platform (CMP) provider, Hedera have close contact with our clients and are continuously trying to solve their issues. We would like to share with you some feedback and our vision of OpenStack.

OpenStack is perceived by analysts as the Linux cloud revolution and offers IT departments a low-cost IaaS with ultra-scalable features. OpenStack’s success is illustrated by the gathering of big and more modest sized companies in the community and their adoption of the project. But after all the hype OpenStack generated, we have recently seen various articles questioning the level of interest within enterprises. How did such a popular project became a “wait and see” solution?

What often comes back in the different analyses, is that OpenStack is “not a solution ready for the enterprise environment”. For hosting companies or service providers with big scalability challenges the solution fits well, but it is more complicated to integrate it into a large company with strict processes.

Analysts indicate that OpenStack is not a cloud or at least it’s not a “cloud in a box” solution.  If the real OpenStack competitor remains Amazon, no need to say that there is a long way to be able to compete on the same level.

The Chief Engineer of Cloud at eBay Market Places is one of these analysts, who is quoted as saying: “Though the community did a nice job at putting together this software, an instance of an OpenStack installation does not make a cloud. As an operator you will be dealing with many additional activities not all of which users see. These include infra-onboarding, boostrapping, remediation, config management, patching, packaging, upgrades, high availability…”

Gartner’s analyst, Alessandro Perilli, wrote another buzzy article.  In this article, he exposes several reasons on why vendors can’t sell OpenStack to enterprises. The main ones being:

  • The lack of clarity about what OpenStack does and doesn’t do
  • The lack of transparency about the business model of and around OpenStack
  • The lack of vision and long term differentiation
  • The lack of pragmatism

The lack of clarity that surrounds OpenStack makes it difficult for enterprises to understand exactly what OpenStack is. The fast cycle of new releases certainly doesn’t help either. Understanding a project involving +13k people across +130 countries is hard enough, and it becomes even harder when every 6 months new side projects are integrated to OpenStack.

We have been talking with service providers and enterprise IT managers for a while now, specially in France where we are based.  The first remark we can make is that OpenStack is pretty much a new “thing” in France. 8 months ago when we were calling prospects and telling them about OpenStack, their answer was “what is OpenStack?”.  It recently changed in a drastic manner. Today, enterprises know what OpenStack is or at least they are curious about it. The reason they started to show interest in OpenStack is simple, they understand the value proposition: reduced costs and no vendor lock-in. Most of the prospects we talk to find these two arguments compelling.

For the most advanced of them who started to deploy Openstack, they realize that it’s not a simple task. At the beginning of December, during OpenStack in Action 4, we recall one IT manager telling us his OpenStack installation story and how difficult it was, even for the experienced Sys admin that he was. The next step for mass enterprise adoption will be to accept the fact that they will need change management in order to deploy and manage OpenStack. To help address the need of a rapid and painless OpenStack deployment we have built pimpmystack.net, a free way to deploy and test OpenStack on a dedicated infrastructure.

However, some of the companies we talk to are not ready to separate from their old habits & inert technologies. What we are sure about is that they are aware of the usage gap between their existing tools and OpenStack.
It is hard to make accurate forecasts on what the OpenStack ecosystem will look like in few years – but there are some trends we are observing and following. We think more and more OpenStack ‘bundles’ will appear to cross the chasm between users’ need and the existing out-of-the-box OpenStack. These bundles’ features will be more adapted to Sys Admins and should prevent solutions like CloudStack or SCVMM from getting more Sys Admin market share.

Companies providing software bundles with OpenStack such as Suse, RedHat, HP or Canonical are mainly the ones implementing them in a production environment. We think that more and more consulting firms will challenge these legacy providers in the integration market.

We believe that OpenStack is a major project and we have no doubt that it is the future of the cloud. 2014 will be the year OpenStack enters the enterprise market in a big way and ‘the gap’ we have identified will be bridged by third party solutions. Companies will need to complete their OpenStack deployment with automation & orchestration solutions, like CMPs. These products ensure fast and easy deployments, a complete & efficient integration with the IT processes and enable companies to embrace a solution to manage their private and (eventually) hybrid cloud environments.

A whole new eco-system is there to be built, don’t be afraid, be excited.